What happens when we organize something?
It gets messed up. Inevitably.
We catch up on the laundry, but more clothes hit the hamper within hours.
We wash the dishes and clear the counters, then dinner is over and the kitchen is in ruins, with stacks of dirty dishes.
We put the kids’ closets in order, but by the end of the week the neat stacks are in shambles.
We put our own closets in order, but then comes a busy day, and it all falls apart.
We clean out the fridge, and then the next day a big spill happens.
It is so tempting to think that our work is undone, a waste of our time, useless, futile.
But it isn’t. I promise.
Our work isn’t meant to accomplish a static state. Our work is ongoing maintenance, regular service.
When our expectations fit real life, we can accept this reality with grace and even cheerfulness.
Expect to rework your systems.
The worst expectation we can give ourselves for the new year is to say, “THIS is the year I will get everything organized.”
The problem is not the determination to take life in hand and make more intentional, deliberate choices to do the right thing at the right time; the problem is the expectation that getting organized is a once-and-for-all project.
It is a big undertaking, it is worth the time and effort, but it will never be done once-and-for-all. A move, a new baby, a long illness, a jump in age that brings changes in needs, all require us to reassess our circumstances and recover order that was lost or no longer working.
For a mother with a bustling household, organizing is like laundry and dishes. It is work that is used and redone and evaluated again and again.
If you’ve been discouraged and ready to give up yourself as a hopeless case, stop thinking of organization as a project that, if done right, will never need to be done again. Rather, it is a project that gets easier to tweak the more you create systems that work with real life at home with kids.
Organization expectations are reinforced with practice.
So once we have some semblance of organization that we know we will constantly need to adjust, it’s time to exercise our attitude – and we’re certain to have plenty of opportunities!
It will be undone. It will need to be redone and reevaluated. And when that happens, we need to take it in stride and not fall to pieces. It’s not the end of the world and it’s not because we did something wrong (necessarily). The next right thing is simply to straighten, tidy, clean, and set back in order for the next round.
Practice, practice, and the easier putting things back together will be.
Practice, practice, and the easier it will be to keep a cheerful tone while you do so. If you start to lose your cool – like I do all the time – breathe deep, pray for grace, and “fake it.” Turn off the display of frustration and practice the right response – the more you do so, the more naturally it will happen.
As C.S. Lewis wrote:
Very often, the only way to get a quality is to start behaving as if you had it already.
Pretend you’re cheerful and composed, act like it, calling out your bad attitude for what it is instead of justifying it, and pretty soon you won’t be pretending anymore – it will be more true the more you practice.
Organization expectations are formed in community.
There is one change that makes all the difference in our expectations.
It is to stop trying to organize alone.
If we want our attitudes and expectations of home life to change, we need to know we aren’t alone, we need to have likeminded women with whom to talk shop, and we need to have our approach challenged and reinforced in community.
We need someone to laugh with us when our plans go awry and when our organization frays. We need someone to remind us that the priority is serving and not having a clean house.
Accountability and camaraderie make it stick.